Austin’s Top News – July 28, 2020

Austin's Top News from News Radio KLBJ

Newly released video of Mike Ramos killing

A member of the Austin Public Safety Committee says the newly released video of the officer involved shooting and killing of Mike Ramos is all the more reason to cut funding from the Austin Police Department. After watching the tape, Commissioner Chris Harris says this is why people want other services to answer more 911 calls besides the police. Given that the Ramos 911 call claimed he had a gun and was pointing it at his pastor, police were the right response. 

“That said, as soon as the police were able to ascertain that Mike Ramos was unarmed and presented no threat, the situation should have been deescalated and that’s it. Mike should still be alive,” Harris says. 

He also says more police training is needed. With the city budget up for debate, moving funds out of APD should take priority. 

The caller on that 911 call made multiple false claims that Ramos was visibly holding a gun in his car. Even though this is the kind of thing police are trained to deal with, retired Austin cop Dennis Farris tells KVUE, a call like that will always put responding officers on high alert. 

“When you get a report there’s a gun involved, you have to assume the information that’s being given to 911 is accurate,” says Farris.

Of course, Ramos did not have a gun, and that’s now leading to questions about legal action that could be taken against the 911 caller. However, that would require coordination with the county attorney’s office. 

Garrett Foster’s death continues to polarize Austin

Austin City Council member Natasha Harper-Madison appears to be among those who have chosen sides already amid the investigation into the killing of a protester over the weekend. Madison accuses Chief Ryan Manley of politicizing Garrett Foster’s death and for allowing the driver, who is alleged to have shot Foster, to be released. Foster died after protesting in Austin and pointing a large rifle at the driver. Reports say the driver then shot back. Madison says the driver intentionally plowed into the crowd as an act of intimidation. 

Gun violence prevention measures

In the wake of Garrett Foster’s death, the Austin City Council is now considering pumping $5 million into a new office of violence prevention. Among the goals would be reducing access to guns wherever possible. Council Member Jimmy Flannigan is also pushing for a complete retooling of the Police Department structure, including the full removal of the position of police chief altogether.

Austin moves a little closer to a massive overhaul of public transit

Dave Couch with Capital Metro, says the expectation is still that it could cost up to $10 billion that the feds would chip in $4.5 billion.

“What that results in is a $5.5 billion investment for the community, for the local match,” says Couch.

The council may be considering closer to $7 billion. Nevertheless, council has approved now an 8.75 cent tax rate election. That is higher than the original proposed 8.5 cents. The city says the extra quarter cent could generate $100 million more for displacement programs,

COVID-19 update

The day to day decline in hospital patients in Travis County continues. There are now 390 people with coronavirus here in the hospital. That’s down six from yesterday and down 90 from a full week ago. 252 people have died out of the 19,720 confirmed cases. 17,069 have recovered, and that’s roughly 400 more than one day ago.

While the number of hospitalizations in Williamson County has remained at 115 for several days, the number of active cases has dropped by the hundreds since last week. This morning, there were 587 active cases. That’s about 60 fewer than a day ago. 99 people have died, and 4,680 have recovered.

A few weeks ago, the city of Austin felt pretty certain the convention center would be needed as a field hospital, but it hasn’t opened yet. Hospitalizations are steadily falling. It will remain on standby, but Dr. Jason Pickett with Travis County says it’s more beneficial to taxpayers if it stays closed until it’s absolutely needed. 

“We did see other jurisdictions which stood up facilities very rapidly early on and ended up not utilizing their facilities. Those were very large expenditures. We wanted to avoid doing that,” says Pickett.

If the site is needed, it would house patients who were in the beginning phases of recovery. 

Confederate statues removed

Bastrop County leaders have agreed to remove confederate statues from outside of the courthouse. The plan now is to form a committee that will decide where the statue should be relocated. That decision is expected by next month. As the summer has progressed, County Judge Paul Pape has become a vocal supporter of their removal.

This news and more on News Radio KLBJ:

https://omny.fm/shows/klbjam-flash-briefing-1/am-newscast-7-28-20

 

 

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